As Americans respond across the country to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many African Americans, it was heartening to read MU President Choi’s statement that “University leaders and I remain committed to combating discrimination and racism in all its forms.”
While these murders must be condemned and changes to laws and policing must also happen, we must also address systemic racism that is less obvious though just as insidious, including what may happen to MU custodial staff and groundskeepers.
MU is currently making plans to privatize custodial and groundskeeping jobs without consulting with LIUNA, the union that represents these workers. A significant number of the 200 jobs affected are held by people of color. Through privatization, MU will ignore the needs of these workers and hire a private company, essentially undermining the power of the union the workers elected to join. These workers will be silenced.
If MU really believes in fighting racism and discrimination in all forms, it will continue to employ these workers and listen to them. It will protect their jobs. By privatizing services, MU will directly harm people of color and the families who depend on them. Let’s see if President Choi is in fact “committed to combating discrimination and racism in all its forms.”
Two important actions supporters can take to hold MU to their word: Sign the petition circulating from Jobs with Justice, and attend the rally in support of these workers at 1 p.m. June 6 on Traditions Plaza.
Christina Ingoglia is a disability advocate and associate professor of English at Columbia College.